Although I see that fans will be excited to know that the next big bad of the MCU after Thanos will be someone like Kang the Conqueror, Doctor Doom, Annihilus or Dormammu, I believe that the seeds have already been planted for the arrival of a more domestic threat lurking on the horizon – the supervillain team known as the Dark Avengers.
In the comics, the Dark Avengers were formed in the aftermath of Secret Invasion with Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) being elevated to head of SHIELD but then reforming SHIELD into HAMMER and using his newfound status and powers to create a team of Avengers that were actually supervillains in disguise. Throughout that story arc, Osborn and his team successfully bolster public opinion and shaping themselves to be the heroes of the day… that is until Osborn decides to engineer an excuse to invade the comic version of New Asgard and the invasion goes horribly wrong; and not only that, the truth about Osborn’s machinations is revealed and public opinion now sways back towards the OG heroes.
Now while we may not have Norman Osborn in the MCU nor other key players in that story – Sentry, Ares, Mac Gargan as Venom, Bullseye, Moonstone and the mutant Daken – it is still possible for this team to come together, be made legitimate in the public, and oppose the New Avengers (Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Ant-Man, War Machine, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson – either one of them becoming the new Captain America while the other retains their other identity) in such a manner that the good guys are forced to work underground.
As for the seeds that have been planted, well:
- Iron Man 2 introduced us to Justin Hammer and Hammer Industries. Although the end of that movie sees him arrested, it is possible that he will take advantage of the events of Infinity War and the chaos created by the Snap to escape prison and restart his industrial enterprises underground. Plus, the death of Tony Stark at the end of Endgame will leave some wiggle room for Hammer Industries to be reinstated as a legitimate industrial player in the manufacturing of powered armour suits. His return to the corporate spotlight will be fuelled by his desire for revenge against Pepper Potts and James Rhodes.
- Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War showed us how distrustful General Thunderbolt Ross is of the metahuman/superhuman community and since we don’t have a confirmation that William Stryker will make an appearance despite the Fox-Disney merger, Ross seems to be the ideal person to look to as the figure who will play on people’s fears of the unknown and manipulate events such that he can then have an excuse to bring such people to heel. With the chaos caused in light of Infinity War and Endgame, it looks like he may have renewed vigor in pursuing this cause.
- As we have seen at the end of Thor: Ragnarok, the people of Asgard will need to rebuild at a new location – and Odin has designated a place in Norway to be the spot they need. Although we see that population getting annihilated in Infinity War, it is likely that Endgame will end up with that Asgardian population resurrected and thus the dominion of New Asgard being established.
But by establishing this dominion at all, the Asgardians open themselves up to possibilities of prejudice/xenophobia from the human community on the planet.
- Black Panther ended with T’Challa announcing the truth about Wakanda and its access to the rare metal vibranium. As that movie has outlined, the secret has been kept well-hidden out of fear that the technology will be stolen and misappropriated for malicious purposes. Even with the guarantee from T’Challa that there will be oversight and education about the material to the outsiders, there is no denying that foreign agents will look to steal and then reverse-engineer the technology so they can stand even with the Wakandans.
- Captain Marvel will introduce us to the Skrulls and it can be safe to say that this will pave the way for a Secret Invasion-style phase/event to occur in the MCU with Skrulls infiltrating Earth’s scientific, political, industrial, economic, cultural and martial elite hoping to create chaos that can be taken advantage of. Humans on Earth will start feeling paranoid about who they can and cannot trust, and will run around in fear about what will happen when the invasion does eventually occur.
So it’s fair to say that in the aftermath of Endgame with the deaths of Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, the revelation and paranoia about aliens living among us humans possessing advanced technology, and the revelation of advanced technology in the hands of the Wakandan people/nation, the world will be seen by Thunderbolt Ross as losing its rudder – the United States in particular losing its prestigious status as the mightiest nation on the planet – and he, along with the help of Justin Hammer, will be the one to set it right. He will activate ‘Project: Thunderbolt’ and begin using his government-approved team of ‘Thunderbolts’ to do the jobs that SHIELD and the New Avengers will coincidentally fail to contain properly if at all. Public support for them will rise throughout the films and so will xenophobic sentiment directed against the Asgardians and Wakandans. This will culminate in a ‘Siege’-type event where Earth’s military and the ‘Thunderbolts’ invade New Asgard only for them to be beat back by both the Asgardians, the New Avengers and whatever allies they can gather throughout the two phases, and the truth about the ‘Thunderbolts’ and Ross to be revealed.
Now as for who is going to make up this team of ‘Thunderbolts’, I can only speculate but I can give you an idea about the first person to be on the roster aside from Ross and Hammer: Boris Bullski/Andy Stockwell, the Titanium Man.
Since Iron Man 2 showed how unsuccessful the world’s superpowers were in recreating the Iron Man armour due to Tony’s secrecy, it is more than likely that his death in Endgame will leave some copyright issues hanging in the air giving Justin the loophole he needs in order to discover Tony’s secret to his Iron Man suit design and reverse-engineer it such that he can create the Titanium Man powered armour suit as the team’s contestant against not only War Machine but Vision too.
That’s who I believe will get the ball rolling as we finish Phase 3 and enter Phase 4. As for the rest of the team, my guess (which is more a hunch than a hypothesis) will be:
- A disillusioned Kree soldier (maybe Noh-Varr) that will serve as the team’s counterpart to Captain Marvel
- A Skrull mercenary that will serve as the team’s counterpart to Captain Marvel
- A powerful ‘wizard’ that will serve as the team’s counterpart to Doctor Strange and Scarlet Witch (I doubt Baron Mordo could fill this role, but who knows?)
- Batroc the Leaper, serving as the team’s counterpart to Captain America
- Ragnarok, a cybernetic clone of Thor that will serve as the team’s counterpart to King Thor and possibly Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange
- Someone that can fill a reverse-engineered vibranium power suit to stand toe-to-toe with Black Panther
Again, the team’s roster is speculation but one thing is certain, at least to me: there will be a supervillain team forming in the MCU’s next phase – and we can see the writing on the wall that there will be a ‘Dark Reign’ over the Earth for the forseeable future.
This is just a fan theory suggested by u/TMfriend10 from Reddit.
This is also suggested by ComicBook. And this post is a detailed version of it.